Recently, I was chatting to a retired teacher and the subject got onto the attainment gap between white boys on free school meals and their peers; regrettably, a majority leave school without the basic levels of English and maths needed to succeed in life. The retired teacher told me the story of a boy she first encountered in Year 6, when she was asked to do research for a network of local schools.

‘I was sent to a rural primary school to administer a survey one Friday afternoon’, she said. ‘The teacher was smart, happy and easy to engage with; she introduced me to her class with great respect.

'The ten-year olds were allowed to ask questions and make comments as they completed the survey. The first to ask a question was a bright, confident girl. Her mother was the teacher. Soon after, a boy asked a question, equally confident, but in a cocky sort of way. He immediately drew the rapture of his peers.  

'As the time wore on, with the interactions between the teacher and her class, it became evident that the bright and confident girl and the equally confident and daring boy had a ‘particular, established and acknowledged rapport’.

'My allotted half hour came to a close. I gathered up my closed response questionnaires and sincerely thanked them all for their time.

'The impression of the teacher and her class on this Friday afternoon, stayed with me for a while.

'A few years later I was back doing research again. This time in a secondary school. At the end of the ‘research’ session, the pupils were filing out and a boy said quietly, ‘I remember you from my primary school’. He was the confident boy from Year 6, whose daring once knew no limits. As it turned out, he now struggled with reading, writing and maths and the confidence and  sparkle had gone. I later discovered that the bright girl of Year 6 had gone on to the local grammar school. I was reminded of a quote by Dr. Seuss, the American children’s author - ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’

Reading well is essential for children and young people to ‘go places’ in life. That is why at Achievement for All we are running our popular Reading Challenge. This year we have doubled the target to 200 million minutes and for the first time the challenge is open to schools, settings, families, libraries, community groups, businesses and organisations from across the world. The challenge runs from the 7th March to 2nd April 2019. Sign up today and ‘go places tomorrow’.

Register for the 200 Million Minutes Reading Challenge here: